Unscrupulous businesses are preying on people desperate to sell their timeshares warn Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.
Consumers who have been affected by the financial down turn and can no longer afford to pay high maintenance fees, sometimes over £1000 per annum for their timeshare property are turning to businesses who claim to be able to find a buyer for them.
But warn Warwickshire Trading Standards Officers, rather than finding a buyer, these unscrupulous companies are simply seeking to rip-off the timeshare owner for even more money!
One Warwickshire timeshare owner, Alan Griffin of Nuneaton, was keen to sell his timeshare and was contacted by a Morecambe based business who claimed they had a buyer for him.
Mr Griffin relates his story:
“I’ve been keen to sell my timeshare for some time because of the high maintenance charges I am paying.”
“Whilst I was happy to sell for only £600, the people that contacted me claimed to have a Malaga based client who was willing to pay £4950.”
“I received several phone calls and was eventually passed over to a Spanish based business. I was then asked to pay £1214 by credit card as a ‘retainer’ which would then be refunded to me when the sale went through.”
“But I was not prepared just to give my credit card details to someone I didn’t know and I asked for more details. It was then that the phone went dead.”
“I feel I have had a lucky escape from what was clearly a scam timeshare re-seller.”
Mr Griffin had also been lured into attending two presentations to get rid of his timeshare, both of which turned out to be property ‘investment’ scams.
Mr Griffin added:
“At one presentation I was asked to take out a £50,000 loan and pay £3000 up front to invest in building houses in Kent and luxury hotels in Thailand, in return for selling my timeshare!”
The reality is that demand for timeshare property is extremely low and owners are unlikely to get back anything close to what they paid. Indeed, some owners have chosen to hand back their timeshares or walk away from them, although this may have legal ramifications with owners being chased for payments timeshare businesses believe they are owed.
Warwickshire Trading Standards warn consumers that timeshare owners should be on their guard if anyone claims to be able to arrange a buyer for their property.
In another case a Warwick resident was contacted by several companies that claimed to have clients prepared to buy his timeshare. He paid one Liverpool based business £1500 as a form of ‘insurance’ to sell his timeshare. When the sale fell through, he was contacted again and told someone else had made a better offer, but that he would have to pay a further £1700, or he would lose his £1500!
These re-sellers are under investigation.
Under the Timeshare, Holiday Products, Resale and Exchange Contracts Regulations 2010 the taking of up-front payments from people wishing to sell their timeshare is banned.
Once an owner begins to actively look for a buyer for their timeshare, this then alerts rogue businesses to their plight who then bombard them with telephone, email and postal offers.
Some timeshare businesses now run exit programmes to enable owners to terminate their agreements. However, such programmes can be costly.
If you are invited to a holiday presentation or asked to attend a presentation to collect a ‘prize’, either at home or abroad, then you may unwittingly have been invited to a sales presentation for timeshare or holiday club membership.
Remember, if you do sign an agreement in a European Economic Area (EEA) country, timeshare and holiday club regulations give you 14 days to change your mind. However, some countries haven’t put the European regulations that protect timeshare owners into force. If you sign in one of these countries you’ll have much less protection.
Before you consider entering into a timeshare or holiday club agreement, read this advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Timeshare and Holiday Club Advice
- A timeshare is not a property investment so it’s very unlikely to hold its value. If salespeople tell you a timeshare agreement is an investment they are committing a criminal offence
- You’re unlikely to be able to sell your timeshare for anything like what you paid for it
- Think about whether you will want this type of holiday every year or can afford the flights to and from your destination
- Think about whether you will want this type of holiday in five or ten years’ time
- Some timeshare agreements are in perpetuity. This means they last forever. Check how long any agreement lasts before you sign
- You will have to pay your maintenance fees every year for the length of the agreement. Think about whether you will still be able do this if you retire or are made redundant
- Holiday clubs don’t own any holiday accommodation and so no dates or destinations are guaranteed. Holidays are often not available when and where you want them
- You might not save any money on the holidays you book and could end up paying as much as the High Street brochure price
- You’re very unlikely to be able to sell your holiday club membership
- You’ll have to pay annual fees whether you use your membership or not
- Some holiday clubs are completely bogus, taking money but never delivering the holiday destinations they promised
The Citizens Advice consumer service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit www.adviceguide.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or 0208 1850 710 (English language).
For advice on scams visit: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/scams
Follow Warwickshire Trading Standards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/warkstss